TEL AVIV (Jan. 7)
Mike Harari, the elusive former Mossad operative said to have been a top adviser to Manuel Noriega, surfaced in Israel over the weekend and declared emphatically that he was only a friend of the deposed Panamanian dictator.
Harari, who reportedly was sought by U.S. forces after they invaded Panama on Dec. 20, appeared Saturday night on Israel Television and denied he had collaborated with Noriega. He insisted he was merely in the import-export business in Panama, dealing with agricultural equipment and solar heaters.
“They said I was Noriega’s adviser. I’m not an adviser. Noriega is not a partner of mine,” Harari declared.
“I did not supervise Noriega’s affairs. I did not supervise or train his forces. I did not organize his personal guard. I am simply a private individual involved in business,” Harari said.
“I was never an arms dealer, and there are no Israeli weapons in Panama,” he added.
Harari described the Panamanian strongman who surrendered to U.S. forces Jan. 3 as “a very pleasant and intelligent man, but definitely not an associate of mine.”
Noriega, a former CIA operative whom a U.S. grand jury indicted last year, was arraigned on drug charges last week in a federal court in Miami.
Harari was linked to Noriega in media accounts that depicted the 62-year-old Israeli as a mystery man who recruited and trained Noriega’s personal guard and was his closest adviser and confidant.
DID NOT ARRIVE IN A SUITCASE
“I was not his adviser. I never heard or saw any evidence of his being involved in drugs, and I was involved only in promoting civilian projects,” Harari told Israel Television.
He accused “other countries” of launching a disinformation campaign against him, referring, presumably, to the United States.
A senior U.S. Embassy official reported in Panama two weeks ago that Harari was in American custody. But that was retracted shortly afterward. The commander of the U.S. invasion force, Lt. Gen. Carl Stiner, said last week that Harari had fled the country.
Harari denied a claim by the new head of the Panamanian security forces that he was tipped off by Israeli officials about the impending U.S. invasion and that, in turn, he warned Noriega.
He said he left Panama unaided after the invasion started.
“I did not arrive as a blond or in a suitcase,” he quipped.
Harari was appointed by Noriega as Panama’s honorary consul in Israel some years ago. He held Panamanian as well as Israeli passports.
According to published reports, Harari directed a Mossad unit that botched an assignment by the late Prime Minister Golda Meir to avenge the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.